The Woodley Park neighborhood that is now home to several thousand residents as well as the National Zoo was once sparsely settled countryside. The farmhouse shown here, known as Redwood, was built around 1819 on a hill that rose 40 feet above current street level. During the Buchanan administration (1857-61), the estate became a fashionable resort. Later, 80 of the 125 acres became part of the National Zoological Park.
In 1856 Jefferson Davis, then secretary of war, summer here with his family. Davis rented the home from Captain Edmund French, a classmate from West Point. Mrs. Davis wrote "we took a house two or three miles out of town and spent the heated term there," visited frequently by President and Mrs. Pierce.
During the Civil War, Union Soldiers convalescing in hospitals thought Jefferson Davis owned the property, so they continually raided the farm. They were so destructive that Captain French's widow and children, who still lived there, were forced to move to town.
In 1920 the house was razed, and 125,000 tons of dirt and rock were removed to lower the plot to the level of Connecticut Avenue. Harry Wardman used eight acres to build Cathedral Mansions here, a complex of three buildings containing 500 apartments - a the time said to be the largest apartment complex south of New York.